Opening Statements on Nominee
Here are excerpts from opening statements by Senate Judiciary Committee members on the first day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas:
* JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. (D-Del.), COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Judge Thomas, you come before this committee in this time of change with a philosophy different from that which we have seen in any Supreme Court nominee in the 19 years since I have been in the Senate. For, as has been widely discussed and debated in the press, you are an adherent to the view that natural law philosophy should inform the Constitution. Finding out what you mean when you say that you would apply the natural law philosophy to the Constitution is, in my view, the single most important task of this committee. . . . Today we’ve achieved balance by having the Supreme Court extend great protection to personal freedoms while declining to block laws that reasonably regulate our economy, our society, our property. Now adopting a natural law philosophy that upsets that balance . . . would in my view be a serious mistake and a sharp departure from where we have been for the last 40 years.
* STROM THURMOND (R-S.C.): An examination of the professional record of Judge Thomas provides no valid reason to believe he would seek to diminish the rights of any American citizens. To reject a nominee based solely on ideology is inappropriate. Requiring that nominee to pass an ideological litmus test would seriously jeopardize the efficacy and independence of the federal judiciary.
* EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D-Mass.): Many of us are concerned about the direction the Supreme Court has taken in recent years. It has increasingly abandoned its role as the guardian of the powerless in our society. It has repeatedly sought to turn back the clock on civil rights. . . . It has ruled that government officials can prohibit doctors in publicly funded clinics from practicing their profession to the best of their ability and giving their patients full medical advice. The court has not hesitated to overrule earlier decisions with which the new majority disagrees. . . . The Senate has a special responsibility to assess Judge Thomas’ view of the Constitution and his dedication to individual rights and the separation of powers.
* ORRIN G. HATCH (R-Utah): I am confident Judge Thomas will zealously safeguard the principle of equal justice under law for all Americans . . . without unfair preference. Thomas is a man of fierce independence. When he is confirmed, he will be nobody’s man but his own, as I know he has been throughout his life. But, because he has spoken out while in policy-making positions against preferences, and what has been popularly known as reverse discrimination, the supporters of these unfair policies want to punish him. I trust, however, that the Senate will not sacrifice Judge Thomas on the twin altars of preferences and reverse discrimination.
* HOWARD M. METZENBAUM (D-Ohio): It would be easy and probably smart politically for senators to vote in favor of this nomination because of Judge Thomas’ personal triumph over adversity. Frankly, I suspect the President and his advisers believe that some senators will do just that. But the Senate must evaluate the nomination based upon the career and record of the nominee. The question for this committee is not: Where does Judge Thomas come from? Rather the question for the committee is this: Where would a Justice Thomas take the Supreme Court? I am deeply concerned about the answer to that question. The record suggests that Judge Thomas may be an eager and active participant in the Rehnquist Court’s assault on established judicial precedence which protects civil rights and individual liberties.